Here we are again, another February 14th has arrived and the time has come to shower our loved ones with gifts, flowers, chocolates and gastronomic delights. But you can’t bestow upon your dearest beloved the same chocolate dipped strawberries and heart shaped box of chocolates every year! There must be some variety and spice in your offerings, and that is where we here at Inspired Occasions come to your rescue. This Valentine’s Day we venture away from the tried and true, while still staying true to the message of the holiday. Love is in the air, but bliss is on the plate.
We start the evening off with a modern twist on the classic strawberry salad. Fresh plump strawberries decorate a mound of tender spring mix greens, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds, shaved red onion and dressed with a warm balsamic glaze vinaigrette. The twist that takes this salad over the top is the addition of a warm Tri color peppercorn and goat cheese mousse. Crushed pink, black and white peppercorns gently folded into the warm goat cheese mousse that drapes over the greens adding a creamy and light textural contrast to the crunch of the peppercorns and pumpkin seeds. The black pepper and strawberries are a natural combination and, this is the next evolution.
What would a day all about love be without some pork, roast rack of pork to be precise, but a bit of backtracking to a historical dessert before we continue. Cherries jubilee is one of mine, and my father’s, favorite desserts. The flavors are so intense and bold we decided not to keep them a prisoner of the dessert plate. Introducing our new roast rack of pork with cherries jubilee glaze, wild rice pilaf and steamed broccolini. The glaze is prepared with all the classic flavors with fun twists, cherry preserves and orange marmalade provided the base, black peppercorns brought a spice and bite, rich chicken stock added body, brandy and triple sec added fresh and bright aromas and flavors. After the sauce had simmered for the proper amount of time, we mounted it with a few dabs of butter and ladled it over lovely porky goodness. Savory wild rice pilaf accented with thyme was the perfect companion for the sweet and juicy pork chops.
Now for dessert, who says it always has to be chocolate? Every Valentine’s Day sweethearts give chocolate as gifts, eat chocolate at dinner, and sometimes even drink chocolate beer or wine. Enough already! Let’s break this tradition of chocohaulism America, and here is where you can start! Presenting our newest, and one of my recent favorites, grilled caramelized peach with vanilla Greek yogurt ice cream, toasted pistachios drizzled with chocolate (It’s a 12 step program getting over chocolate), and finished with warm dried blueberries reconstituted in honey, triple sec, lemon juice and fresh orange zest. I can’t even begin to describe the flavor here; each bite is like happiness incarnate. The grilled peach is sweet and juicy with a touch of char from the grill, paired with the velvety smooth vanilla Greek yogurt is a match made in heaven. The salty crunch of the pistachios drizzled with just a touch of rich chocolate, (we cannot go cold turkey here), pair perfectly with the pop of the marinated blue berries, warm and dripping with honey and triple sec. The only way to make this better would be to pair it with an ice cold glass of blueberry limoncello…. which we just so happen to have.
Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!